He must be 65 or so, which means that when he came to power on the back of a landslide victory in 1996, Kenny must have been around 45 years old. Before then, he had enjoyed a brief stint in government of six months as Special Advisor to the Ministry of Education and Culture from August 1979 to December 1980, and an even shorter spell of four months as Minister of Education from December 1980 to March 1981, after which he disappeared from Saint Lucia’s political scene into self-imposed exile if my memory serves me right.
Then, in 1996, with a massive majority of 16 – 1, he became prime minister without much experience of political life. I recall Janice telling her husband John before the election that Anthony would become the next leader of the country. He was, after all, tall, handsome, and a good talker – all attributes attractive to the female voter. John was not amused; the thought of ‘a Barnard’ taking over ‘his’ country was intolerable, but by then the UWP was a pretty enfeebled party and was no match for New Labour.
His first term was good. However, it was only after they departed that I realized how important the roles of two independent actors, Mario Michel and Didacus Jules, had been for the health of the government as a whole. They spoke their minds and refused to kowtow before the Chief, as Kenny enjoyed being referred to. They didn’t last for long, and eventually went on to greener pastures.
‘Kowtow’, for those who do not know, means ‘to act in an obsequious manner; to show servile deference’. The word referred to the practice of ‘touching the forehead to the ground while kneeling, as an act of worship, reverence, apology before a Superior in former Chinese custom’ which might explain Kenny’s obsession with Mainland China and its system of divine, almost feudal leadership.
His second term, which started in 2001, was in some ways similar to his third. He continued to reign thanks to a much smaller majority (16 – 1 was obviously unsustainable) but his performance was so disappointing that his party lost power in 2006. This wasn’t so much due to a revitalized UWP, even with Sir John at the helm (the struggle had become personal), as the electorate’s dissatisfaction with Kenny’s government’s inability to keep its election promises and improve the lives of its citizens.
Actually, to say it was a failure of government is inaccurate. Once a leader takes on the mantle of micro-manager he also becomes, by default, the owner of every decision taken, and every mistake made during the tenure of the government he leads. Members of government have reported on more than one occasion during the past five years that whatever they wanted to do, no matter how much they believed in projects I presented to them, nothing would or could happen until the ‘Chief’ had had his say – and, of course, that ‘say’ was never forthcoming. This election’s failure of the SLP to maintain its grip on the reins of power was not the party’s failure; the fault lies at the feet of a hubristic leader who led his country into disillusionment, frustration, distrust, disbelief and despair.
‘Hubris’ usually refers to an individual rather than a group, though the group the offender belongs to may suffer its consequences. Hubris is associated with a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, but it may also reflect fluctuating self-esteem that has to be hidden at all costs. Hubris is a lack of humility. The Book of Proverbs in 16:18 tells us, “pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Hubris is the pride that blinds, the pride that leads to foolish acts that belie common sense. Hubris is the pride that goes before the fall.
A leader who surrounds himself with Yes-men does not want to hear dissent – let alone listen to it – and will probably not heed advice that does not correspond to his own version of reality, and will seldom hear any truth but his own. This may be why, when the Chief’s former mouthpiece reassured him, so I am told, that his nemesis and my buddy, Rick Wayne, was a ‘nonentity’ whose influence on the voting public was negligible, he accepted this assessment as true; it was what he wanted to believe.
We will probably never know whether the electorate voted as it did because of the appeal of a new UWP government, or the mud that stuck to the former Chief’s several highhanded, single-handed scandals, the woeful state of our economy, or the sorry, insecure and dangerous, state of everyday life; the point is: he’s gone, gone to the Purgatory of Opposition, to paraphrase his own words. I expect he will be offered some lucrative, roaming position befitting his restless nature – a bit like Tony Blair – from which he can harmlessly, impotently, pontificate to his heart’s content.